We hear a lot about people - often teens - overdosing on illegal drugs such as heroin and cocaine.

A problem that's just as serious is the abuse of prescription drugs.

Last week, a hearing was held in Harrisburg regarding a bill co-sponsored by State Representative Doyle Heffley of Palmerton.

The bill would establish the Pharmaceutical Accountability Monitoring System (PAMS), which increases a prescription drug database to monitor and control the excessive distribution of legal prescriptions.

Three local residents testified at the hearing. They are Karen Flexer of Lehighton, Wendy Gurensky of Lehighton, and Lisa Shiffert of Coaldale.

Flexer's son, Brett, died a few months ago after he took half of an unknown pill at a party. When combined with alcohol, it caused his accidental death.

Karen said at the hearing, "It is my belief that if this bill was in place in April this year, my son would still be alive."

Shiffert lost her son, Cody Wentz, to a prescription drug overdose last year.

There was a lot of other testimony given, including from the Pa. Society of Anesthesiologists, Westmoreland District Attorney's Office Narcotics Division, and Pennsylvania Association of Chain Stores.

The bill proposed by Heffley is a good one and is drastically needed. Years ago, such a database would have been impossible to maintain. Today we have the tools to utilize such a system which could potentially save lives.

Rep. Heffley said, "I will continue to work in Harrisburg to ensure this bill, and other measures like the methadone incident review team bill, is put in place to help prevent similar tragedies in the future."

Drug overdoses and deaths, whether caused by illegal substances, synthetic drugs, or prescription drugs that are abused, are a serious problem in virtually every community.

The problem is too big, and too complex, for local law enforcement officials to handle alone.

It's good state lawmakers are becoming more involved in this battle.

Rep. Heffley's proposal is a great start and hopefully the bill will be passed very soon.

By RON GOWER

rgower@tnonline.com